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Fired Chicago high school basketball coach champions grades-first approach

Chicago Kenwood Academy basketball coach Jim Maley was fired despite his team's winning record and high GPA. (kenwoodacademy.org)
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Chicago Kenwood Academy basketball coach Jim Maley was fired despite his team's winning record and high …

In a winter when the city's top public school basketball team forfeited its entire season over an academic scandal, Chicago's Kenwood Academy coach Jim Maley could take solace in his approach to the game. He demanded a higher GPA than Chicago Public Schools required, and his athletes responded.

For his reward, the Kenwood Academy administration reportedly asked Maley to step down.

Despite posting a winning record in each of his first three seasons at the varsity helm, the 29-year-old physical education teacher was asked to resign from his coaching position, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Kenwood did not feature a single Division I recruit listed in the Rivals.com database during Maley's tenure. Yet, his team posted a .511 winning percentage in arguably the nation's most competitive public school league. More importantly, in Maley's eyes, the Broncos maintained a 2.9 GPA as a team.

According to the Tribune, Maley began charting his players' attendance and grades when he became the freshman-sophomore coach in 2009, and the correlation led him to challenge his players upon taking over the varsity two years later. He demanded a 2.5 GPA — higher than the CPS required 2.0 (an 80 average rather than a 75) — and regularly checked in with their teachers regarding truancy and behavior.

Within one year, his team's GPA reportedly rose from 2.0 to 2.7. It didn't always result in wins, especially when Maley suspended his All-City leading scorer Kevin Swanson for a 2012 playoff game. The larger victory, however: Swanson is currently finishing his associate's degree, according to the Tribune.

"If we create a higher standard for these kids, they will achieve," Maley told the paper. "But to hold them accountable, we have to be willing to lose games every now and then. Luckily we had some pretty good kids who were going to figure out things regardless of what we did. But we had others who really needed our program.

"I'm just hoping that the next coach will follow the same path — despite the risks."

Maley hopes to coach again soon. In the meantime, he leaves with a pair wins over nationally ranked Curie, even if they were forfeit victories as a result of the erstwhile city champion's academic scandal.

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